Skip to content

Stringing Beads

Thursday, August 24, 2006

I learned that you should feel when writing, not like Lord Byron on a mountain top, but like a child stringing beads in kindergarten—happy, absorbed and quietly putting one bead on after another. —Brenda Ueland

The faster I write the better my output. If I’m going slow, I’m in trouble. It means I’m pushing the words instead of being pulled by them. —Raymond Chandler

Maybe editing a book on teaching children how to read and write is getting to me. But in a good way. It’s made me remember the joy I had as a child when first discovering words and language—of the joy I still get when I learn a new word or hear a cleverly crafted turn of phrase.

In my previous job, I subscribed to Merriam-Webster’s “word of the day” e-mail and included the word of the day on the e-mail I sent out each morning to the assistants and managers in the department alerting them to who was out of the office that day. I was always disappointed when it was a word I already knew. I loved it when it was a word that I could use in a story.

I’ve been doing some serious intellectual wrestling with myself recently (see “Just Write” entry below) about just being able to let the ideas flow or getting blocked because I’m too worried about the technical aspects of writing.

Last night, as I started writing chapter 8 of Ransome’s Honor, I realized that one of my problems is that I’m trying to force myself to write during times of day that have never been my most creative nor productive—any time before 10:00 p.m.

As a night person, my energy level starts to rise around the time Jon Stewart comes on, and peaks around 12:30 a.m. Now that I’m in a job where I must arrive at 8:00 a.m., this has caused me to alter my schedule to trying to go to bed (with the lights off) by 11 p.m. A hard task, because my brain is still going ninety mph at that time. But because over the last year, most of the time I designated for “writing” was spent on editing/rewriting, which I could concentrate on better earlier in the evening, the time before bed became the time when I read—trying to focus my mind on one thing long enough to allow fatigue to carry me off to sleep.

Last night, though, I fired up the laptop and started typing in some pages I’d written during a burst of inspiration at work earlier in the week. In about 40 minutes, I’d written five pages, with no thought of whether the POV was too omniscient, the verbs too passive, or certain words used repetitively. And I felt just like that child in kindergarten, focused only on the beads. The story was pulling me—making me type faster and faster just to keep up with the flow of ideas and images in my head.

As Madeline L’Engle wrote in Walking on Water, I got out of the way and let the story take over. Just like I used to as a child. No worries, no anxiety, no wondering what anyone else would think of it. Just sitting there stringing beads.

And it felt really good.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: